Knee Arthritis Treatment

There are lots of different knee arthritis treatment options. They can really help reduce pain, increase function, stop the progression of the disease, and may abolish arthritis knee pain altogether.

Knee arthritis occurs when there is "wear and tear" in the cartilage lining the knee joint leading to bone rubbing on bone. This causes pain, stiffness and inflammation.

The goal of knee arthritis treatment is to enable you to manage your symptoms so you can get on with your life. By reducing pain and swelling, and improving the strength and mobility of your knee, you can improve your day to day life. 

It is important to remember that there is no cure for arthritis, the changes in the bone and cartilage cannot be undone. But the effect of those changes can be minimised.

Here you will find information about the best knee arthritis treatment options to reduce arthritis knee pain.

General Arthritis Treatment Options

1) Exercise

Once upon a time people were told that exercise made arthritis worse.  Nothing could be further from the truth - studies have shown that one of the best knee arthritis treatment options is exercise. Ideally you want a combination of aerobic exercises like swimming and cycling combined with strengthening and movement exercises.

Exercise is one of the most effective knee arthritis treatments

a) Strengthening exercisesStronger muscles means more support and therefore less force through the bone resulting in less knee arthritis pain.  By doing strengthening exercises you can help reduce the pain and disability associated with arthritis
b) Mobility exerciseswhen the knee starts getting stiff and the muscles get tight, it can change the way forces go through the knee and can put extra pressure on the cartilage and bones. Walking on a leg that doesn't fully straighten, even just by a few degrees, is much harder work.  It is important to keep your knee moving as much as possible.

If you are a keen runner and suffer from arthritis,  its best to avoid hard running surfaces like pavements.  Instead, opt for a treadmill, cross trainer, or grass

Arthritis knee braces work by reducing the forces going through the damaged parts of the knee

2) Knee Braces

Knee braces can be worn to help stabilise the knee and reduce the pressure going through the knee joint. They are really good if the knee is feeling weak and wobbly. There are different types of arthritis braces available.  The most high-tech ones redistribute forces away from the part of the knee affected by the arthritis, which can dramatically reduce pain.  Visit the arthritis knee brace section to find out about how different knee braces work and read reviews to help you choose the best one for you.

3) Heat/Ice

Heat: warmth to an arthritic joint can be very soothing and is a lovely, natural knee arthritis treatment. The heat sensation helps to block out any pain sensations, and it also helps increase blood flow to the area which helps bring in all the chemicals and nutrients that the joint needs whilst at the same time taking away the waste products that can be contributing to the arthritis knee pain. Get a hot water bottle (ensuring it has a fluffy cover) on or a towel wrapped around it and place it on the knee for about 15-20 minutes

Ice: ice can be a really useful knee arthritis treatment tool to help reduce arthritis pain and swelling. Click the link to find out how to safely and effectively use ice or visit the Ice Wraps section for the best ways to apply ice

4) Keep Moving

Joints need movement. The knee joint contains fluid which works to lubricate the joint – think of it like the oil in your car keeping everything moving smoothly. The fluid is pumped into the joint with movement of the knee.

However, if the knee remains in one position for too long, the fluid starts to “dry out” and the knee loses some of its lubrication. This is why when you go to get up after sitting down for a while the knee feels stiff and sore, but the loosens up after a few minutes eg when watching telly or when you first wake up in the morning. Therefore, try and avoid staying still for long periods. Every 20 minutes or so, do some simple exercises like bending and straightening your leg. See the arthritis movement exercises section for more infoon this simple knee arthritis treatment tool.

Acupuncture can be used to treat arthritis

5) Acupuncture

There have been a number of studies which show that acupuncture can be a really useful arthritis knee treatment option. I have definitely had success with it myself. However, I personally believe that acupuncture is most useful in the short term to help relieve pain to enable you to do exercises to build up the strength and flexibility of your muscles as the long term solution

6) Weight Loss

Research has shown us that a 5% to 10% reduction of body weight can dramatically reduce arthritis knee pain and improve your ability to exercise. Find out how much weight you need to lose with these body mass index charts. Weight loss is only recommended if you are overweight so always consult your doctor before using weight loss as a knee arthritis treatment option.

7) Natural Remedies

Natural remedies are becoming increasingly popular knee arthritis treatment options.  There is more and more research being done into their effectiveness and many people swear by them.

There are a whole range of options including:
Supplements:such as glucosamine and chondroitin,
Homeopathy
: natural products such as ASU and Feverfew
Alternative medicine: such as magnets, copper bracelets, creams and gels.

8) Walking Aids

Sometimes people find it helpful to use a stick or crutches. A stick doesn’t really take any weight off the knee but it does help us to balance. Crutches can be used to reduce how much weight is going through the knee when we walk.

If you are using just one stick or crutch, always use it on the opposite side to where the pain is eg if it's your left knee that is sore, hold the stick in your right hand. The reason for this is that when we walk normally we swing our opposite arm with our opposite leg (think of the army marching). This is the most efficient way for our body to move, so we want to mimic that when using a walking aid.

Gel knee pads can help reduce arthritis pain when kneeling

9) Gel Knee Pads

These make kneeling much more comfortable by providing a soft cushioned surface to kneel on and reducing the pressure through the knee. They also help spread out the force going through the knee, rather than it all going through one point. You can read reviews of gel knee pads to find the best ones for you

10) Pacing

Pace your activities through the day – don’t try and do all the strenuous jobs at once. Alternate between physical activities and more gentle ones. Keep using your knee, but rest it when it becomes painful. This is a very simple knee arthritis treatment option, but can be very effective.

11) Footwear

Wear shoes with low heels and soft cushioned soles. High heeled shoes change the way the forces act on the knee putting increased pressure on the knee joint, so avoid! Cushioned soles will help reduce the forces going through the knee by acting as shock absorbers.

12) Stairs

Arthritis sufferers often complain of pain when going up and down the stairs.  Use the hand rail to take some of the weight off your knees. Doing one step at a time can also reduce the pain - the most comfortable way is to lead with your good leg on the way up, and your bad leg on the way down.  This is a really simple knee arthritis treatment but can make a big difference in day to day life.

Medication for Arthritis

1) Pain Relief

Appropriate medication is a vital part of Arthritis knee treatment

This may be over-the-counter treatment or prescription medications. I know a lot of people don’t like taking pills but they can be really useful. It is much better to take pain relief short term so that you can do your arthritis knee exercise programme than it is to battle through pain while your knee gets weaker and more painful. This is one of the most important knee arthritis treatment options available.

2) Anti-Inflammatory Medication

The ones most commonly used for knee arthritis treatment are Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAID). Some are available over the counter eg ibuprofen and stronger ones are available on prescription. NSAIDs work by reducing swelling and pain.

3) Injections

Injections can be a great knee arthritis treatment to reduce pain and inflammation.

There are 2 types on injections that can be used for knee arthritis treatment.
Corticosteroid injections are a mixture of local anaesthetic and steroid that is injected into the knee to help decrease arthritis knee pain and swelling.
Joint lubricant injections, such as synvisc, involve injecting a natural gel-like substance found in normal joints into the knee to help lubricate it.

These knee arthritis treatment injections are often carried out by your own doctor. Whilst they won't cure your arthritis, they may relieve pain for up to 6 months.

SAFETY ADVICE: Remember to always consult your doctor before taking any medication as there are some side effects and contraindications associated with certain drugs. And always discuss and new knee arthritis treatment with your doctor to make sure it is appropriate for you.

Surgery

Often, conservative knee arthritis treatment is enough to manage the symptoms and progression of arthritis. However, sometimes arthritis knee pain becomes too debilitating, and surgery is advised.

The most common surgery performed for arthritis is a knee replacement. If the arthritis is confined to one side of the knee, then a partial knee replacement can be performed.  If the arthritis is more widespread, then a total knee replacement is required.

RELATED PAGES

Arthritis Overview: Introduction to Arthritis
Causes of OA: The most common causes of arthritis
Symptoms & Diagnosis: The symptoms of OA and how is it diagnosed
Stages of OA: How the disease progresses
Natural Arthritis Remedies: including supplements and homeopathy
Knee Replacements:
Replacing an arthritic knee with a new one

Go to Arthritis Guide or Homepage


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See Also

What is Arthritis?

How do I know if I've got Arthritis?

The best arthritis Knee Braces

Top tips on exercising your leg



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